Four dudes, four stringed instruments, one microphone and an old timey bluegrass sound. That’s a good way to describe Minneapolis-based Pert Near Sandstone to anyone who has never heard or heard of this group. Comprised of Nate Sipe on mandolin and fiddle, Kevin Kniebel on banjo, J Lenz on acoustic guitar, Adam Kiesling on upright bass and Andy Lambert on clogs and washboard Pert Near Sandstone brings an up-tempo, foot (or clog) stomping energy that has propelled this group to an ever rising level of notoriety. Praised and hand-picked by Garrison Keeler for multiple appearances on A Prarie Home Companion and also lauded by fellow Minnesota pickers Trampled By Turtles, Pert Near Sandstone is a gem of Americana infused bluegrass to see live.
On a blistery cold Saturday night in Denver, the Bluebird Theater and its’ modest 550 seating capacity, was a warm respite from the elements outside. While the warmth of the Bluebird Theater was a nice contrast to the cold night outside, Pert Near Sandstone certainly turned up the heat even more, as they poured into their opener “Ship of Fools”, an original (not the Grateful Dead cover), and a fast paced, hearty slice of old timey mountain music.
From here the band moved through two sets of contemporary bluegrass rooted in Bill Monroe-Flatt & Scruggs traditional arrangements, with each member taking turns singing into the lone microphone on stage. There is something unbelievably American about seeing four string instruments being played as each musician takes their time leaning into the microphone to add vocals. To quote Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, “that’s some mighty fine pickin’ and a sangin”!”. Truly, Pert Near Sandstone delivers on that accord.
Pert Near Sandstone’s “Solid Gone”
The beauty of traditional bluegrass cannot be understated when referring to Pert Near Sandstone. This band puts a very modern spin on very old music and does it with the same vivacious and fresh nature as such acts as Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Trampled By Turtles and Hot Buttered Rum. Even if you don’t really enjoy bluegrass music, Pert Near Sandstone will still draw your appreciation.
The term “pert near” is a colloquial slang phrase meaning “close to”. If Pert Near Sandstone if close to anything, it’s that of a Saturday night in Lynch, Kentucky or a raging honky tonk outside the limits of any dry county in the south. Pert Near Sandstone doesn’t just take you back to this era, they drive you there at 97 miles an hour. Your heart will pound, you toe and heel will tap and a big ole shit eating grin will appear across your face. Each song Pert Near Sandstone played that evening at the Bluebird Theater in Denver was a similar type of bluegrass, varying in tempo and the musician singing it.
From here, the band returns to Minnesota and continues on with a nationwide tour. If you haven’t heard Pert Near Sandstone, start with “Solid Gone” thank me later. These boys are a mix of the old and new school, which makes them classic. Grab yo kids, grab you wife and get out to see Pert Near Sandstone. Oh, and don’t forget your dancing shoes. Whatever dancing shoes are.
Written by Allen Bryne
OurVinyl | Contributor
Pert Near Sandstone Winter/Spring Tour:
Mar 29 First Avenue Minneapolis, MN
Apr 05 Wicked Moose Rochester, MN
Apr 06 Bluegrass and Roots Festival River Falls, WI
Apr 18 The Aquarium Fargo, ND
Apr 19 The Filling Station Bozeman, MT
Apr 20 The Top Hat Missoula, MT
Apr 24 City Winery Chicago, IL
Apr 25 High Noon Saloon Madison, WI
Apr 26 Wooly’s Des Moines, IA
Jun 15 Big Top Chautqua Bayfield, WI
Jul 05 Nippersink Festival Spring Grove, IL
Aug 09 MN Bluegrass & Old-Time Festival Richmond, MN